Took a taxi (20E) from the airport after returning our rental car, to our reasonably priced B&B in downtown Cagliari, Il Cagliarese. A wooden plaque outside a massive wooden door was all that indicated the B&B, and we had to walk up two steep flights of stairs carrying our luggage to get to the apartment. We arrived early at 11:30am, and were greeted by Mauro, the charming owner, who showed us to our simple room. The room was a good size with some artistic touches, a beamed ceiling, wardrobe, desk and small LCD TV, and had a small french balcony with laundry drying from it looking across to a massive office building. If you poked your head outside, you could see the sea to your left. The bathroom had another small shower enclosure, toilet, bidet and sink with tile floors throughout.
We began our tour of the city by taking the lift up to the Castello upper old town district. It was a hot and sunny day and we had lunch at Cafe Spiritu on top of the balustrade. My zucchini flower blossoms were too tough but the shrimp tempura was OK. We ambled around the ancient narrow streets and visited the gorgeous cathedral and the Museum of Archeology, which we thought was just OK. The elephant tower was impressive, the buildings had charming facades, and the distant view of the sea, lagoon and mountains was pretty. It also was interesting looking down over the rooftops to the modern city below and seeing a fair number of bombed out buildings from WWII that still remained.
We walked down through an old city gate and made our way to the refreshing coolness of Isola Gelateria with it’s 100 flavors of gelato.
We continued our city tour by window shopping through the pedestrian only shopping streets of Via Manno and Via Garibaldi and continuing on to the more upscale Via Paoli.
I guess I wasn’t in a shopping mood because nothing really appealed to me. Earlier, I had bought a traditional, gold-plated “breast” style adjustable ring with two strategically placed small turquoise stones. Finally, our feet and legs were killing us so stopped for a drink at a Via Roma cafe before calling it a day.
That night, we walked around the corner to dine at Stella Marina di Montecristo, a seafood restaurant recommended by Mauro. You absolutely must have reservations far in advance to eat here. Have your hotel book them ( I don’t think you can contact them directly) probably a month in advance or you won’t get in.
We got there at 8:30 when they opened and we were the only table. The atmosphere is nautical meets sports bar (I think the owner is a former soccer player) again, way too bright, but that’s not the main draw. The gruff owner asks “wine?” and plunks down a pitcher of white wine (no choice of red) and water “gas?”. Never asked what we wanted to eat... you get whatever was caught that day. I had no idea what the cost would be (but I thought I remember from reading earlier reviews that is was reasonable) Then he brought out a large platter of antipasti...wonderful grouper (cedrine) in a light tomato sauce, stuffed mussel and clams, a bit of shrimp salad and mussel salad, some langoustine (crayfish) and small octopi. Following that, we got two types of pasta...linguini with little shrimp and fettuccine with fish and tomato sauce. Then, a huge cork platter loaded with 2 whole grilled sea bass, 4 grilled prawns, 2 scallops, 2 squid, 2 pulpo (baby octopi) surrounded with fresh fruit (2 peaches, pineapple, grapes and cacki (persimmons...excellent!) To finish, he put a bottle of Mirto on the table (we poured our own) and a delicious mandarino (tangerine) sorbetto in a glass. Excellent! The place is now packed with locals all happily indulging in this seafood extravaganza. We had a very nice young waiter who tried to answer my questions about what we were eating (and then translate it into English), but we could tell he was getting yelled at if he took too much time with us. The bill arrives....30E each for this amazing feast including the wine, water and Mirto. What a bargain!
Happily satisfied, we stagger back to find the office building square in front of our B&B now magically transformed into a tango dancing spectacle. Actually, it’s a tango dance lesson followed by open dancing. We stay for awhile to enjoy watching the dancers, the music and warm night air. My husband has the effrontery to question one of the teachers that their version of the tango looks different from what we see in the States and he’s told they do the Argentinian style. When we go upstairs and shut our windows and shutters, it blocks out the music so we’re able to sleep peacefully.
The next morning, Mauro serves breakfast in a small modern room part of the kitchen. Along with cappuccino, we have a bowl of cut up fruit, a small cornetto, bread with great cheeses drizzled with local honey and walnuts, a fig tart, some tiramisu and a bit of white pudding. It’s quite good, but I don’t really like the atmosphere and lack of any public space. There is a computer and Wi-Fi available.
We set off down Via Roma, the main street along the sea, and briefly walked through La Renascente, their main department store, which is very nice. We start walking up to see the Botanical Gardens, with 500 plants from around the world, but we don’t find it very interesting. It’s starting to cloud up, but still hot, and continue walking uphill to view the unexciting Roman amphitheater from the sidewalk. We walked up to the Belvedere trying to find out how to reach the Public Gardens. Finally figured out how to get down from Castello and reached the lovely small Art Museum and toured that. When we left that, we strolled through a contemporary ceramic art fair of local artists in the park with works I would’ve love to bring home, if I had the room. It started to drizzle then and we walked all the way back to the Marina district where we had a late lunch inside at Lillicu trattoria, renowned for seafood. We wanted pizza but the pizza restaurants only open for dinner. My husband had spaghetti with clams and grated Bottarga (mullet roe), a Sardi specialty that we had to try before leaving (it’s just OK...salty). I had their seafood starter with 6 different things...a great tiny fried fish thing, mussels (but we haven’t liked any of the mussels here....they’re in a way too salty broth)...tuna slices (I thought were too bland but husband liked), cold shrimps with tomatoes (good), squid (nasty), snails (no)...with great house wine and a lively, noisy atmosphere. I’ve forgotten to mention in this review how good their traditional unleavened crispy cracker bread is...Pane Carrasau that’s served with almost every meal.
Since we had a very early flight to Sicily the next morning, we headed back to pack up. This was no easy matter because we were flying Meridiana and their luggage policy was the most restrictive....5 kg (11 # for one hand luggage) and 20 kg (44 # for one check bag. The hand luggage was the big issue since I carry a lot of medications, my 35mm camera and other Items I didn’t want to check. So, we ended up throwing away or giving to Mauro many things to get the weight down. While packing, I also realized I had lost my larger zoom camera lens (either left in the car or taken from my room in Cala Gonone)....less weight though! Since we had to get up at 5am for a 6am taxi, we didn’t go out to dinner. Mauro was kind to put together a snack bag for our breakfast the next morning. We had the worst night sleep though, because tonight a loud, hard rock band was playing in the square and the throbbing sounds came through the closed window. Earplugs finally helped, but by then we were pretty jazzed up. Luckily, our taxi was outside in the dark at 6am and our flight to Sicily went off without a hitch. However, they didn’t even weigh our carry on bag...so lesson learned, don’t throw out anything until they make you!
- Also Known As:
- Il Cagliarese Cagliari, Sardinia
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Cagliarese Bed and Breakfast is located in the heart of the beautiful city of Cagliari. It is situated opposite the Port and Via Roma, in the historic Marina District. Surrounded by traditional craft shops, elegant shopping streets and cosy taverns it is the perfect location to experience all that Cagliari has to offer. ... more less